Monday, August 18, 2014

Where's The Podium #21: Dawg Days Circuit Race 3/4 - Last(?)

This race... I'm not sure what I can say...

I fought hard, dug when I could, held my lines, and came up lacking in the last lap. I am frustrated, but no finger pointing except to myself. How much did I want this? How much did I want to risk in this pack? Sure, there was sketchiness and ridiculous riding on all sides, but my tactic to stay safe and ride opportunities when I could held strong for me until I faded in the last lap. I saw other team moves going and willed my legs to follow as best they could. I really stepped off of the gas in the last lap when I realized two things:
  1. I was not going to win this race from where I was - edged out to in 20th+ spot after avoiding crashing into other riders swaying from their lines and squeezing their brakes.
  2. I don't trust anyone around me - I've crashed enough this season. Seriously.
I did, however, decide to take pictures of my race experience - except during the race itself. Naturally.

I race...

26.3 mi/h average
182 hr average
98 rpm cadence average

I don't think there's much else to say. I will have to make up for this one. It's leaving a really bad taste in my mouth. I will keep riding and continue to drop weight for next season.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Where's The Podium? #19: Poor House RR - crashed out

Had worse.
It's a sickening feeling to go down on a bike. Worse feeling when you have found your way so close to a win, 150 meters more would have taken you there. This was violent, but more on that in a bit.

My coffee and granola bar breakfast sent me on my way to West Virginia in a happy, excited mood. I don't usually hit the road at 5:30am, but if its going to be for a bike race, I can't complain. 

Martinsburg WV's finest ready to escort

Once parked, I hustled to registration and pinned my race numbers as fast as I could to have time to pee, make sure my brakes weren't rubbing rims, and slide into the starting area.

The organizer and official kept it short and sweet for the start, and we were off on the 10mile loop ready for our race. What wasn't short and sweet was our neutral start. I won't say much more than I am not used to a +2mile neutral start. At any rate, we were on our way to completing 3 laps of the loop. 

Along the way, the pace was well kept. There were obvious teams interested in being at the front except on climbs where they all dropped back through the field. That was sorta funny, but I would not get in their way when they wanted to ride in front on the mostly downhill second half of the loops.

We had good speed for the race considering the terrain and the field strength. My only hiccup came during the second lap on the steepest of the climbs. For whatever reason, my right foot unclipped from its pedal right as I started to put on the wattage. This caused me to lose all speed and have to try and not panic as I clipped back in on this 9% hill and work my way back to the group. I wasted no time as there was another hill to cover, and I burned a match to get back on the group. It took a lot out of me, but I knew it was what I had to do, and that I was not going to lose this race on something like that.

Skipping to the last lap.

I work my way up the field and sat no higher that 5th wheel going into the final few miles. I see them ticking by and I know that I have to hold the wheel I have in front as he is going a great job keeping his spot. All I had to do was stay to the yellow line, wait for between 500m-200m to the finish line to open my sprint to the far outside left lane where 1. No one would get around me 2. The road's last 100m had a slight left-hand bend that I would use for even more advantage. 

I was perfect. 800m to go, someone sped off my wheel to my left. He got a gap on the field  but was fading. I begin my sprint 200m to go slingshotting someone else's wheel and I surge! My power is big and I feel this win slowly take me in. I am gunning for the wheel of the one off the front. I can see he is fading fast. I look up as he looks back for who might beat him to the line. It was to be me. I can feel myself breaking away from the front of the group. I tell myself that I am the fastest one here. Then - snap!

My body is slammed to the pavement at +32mph. I don't know what just happened. I feel my head hit. My face and body slide across the pavement and find a stop in the gravel at the side of the road. My twisted bike is somewhere behind me. The first thing I think to say "f*ck that!" (Sorry, parentals.)

I don't know what happened. I have guessed that my gears skipped and somehow that caused me to fly to the ground. Maybe someone flung their bike, in the frantic sprint, into my back wheel and took me out. I'm not sure though. All I know is that I was really close to that win, and I really wanted it. 

Race promoter, Matt, was really helpful making sure I was alright, and with the help of some volunteers, found my keys that had flung out of my rear pocket* during my crash. 

So as not to dwell too much more on this, I'm glad to say that apart from adding onto roadrashes of before, I am fine and ready to race tomorrow.
I did, however, lose my favorite jersey today.
Between the jersey, helmet, and bib shorts, I lost easily $400 worth of kit today. Could have been worse! - always!

I'm glad I will get to race tomorrow, and I hope that I can race this Poor House Road Race again next year! 

Some more photos from today...

A bit scuffed

Take me home

As I was sitting by the roadside waiting for my keys to be found I heard a racer talking so someone walking back with him from the course say "The guy that crashed would have won." Then he pointed to me. Last night I typed out a message "I'll have some good news for you after my race tomorrow" to my girlfriend. That's how confident I was. I didn't sent it, but I guess me typing it out was enough to gynx it.

*my crash ripped open the stitching between my back pockets making it one long pocket-pouch.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Where's The Podium? #18: Steel City Showdown 2014 - 22nd

Well, it has been some time since I have posted here. It has been over a year since the last post and that horrible crash. That's obvious. Less obvious might be the opportunities I have recently been afforded to ride, train, and race my bike. To put this quickly, my updates here have been lacking due to less riding. I have put a lot behind me and while opening myself up to a new challenge ahead, the window of opportunity to ride and spend time with my bike and the friends and support around it has presented itself. I'll take it. After this weekend's race and experiences I have been motivated, if not inspired, to have a go at posting again, and to keep ever diligent with riding.

Tough drive up
The Pittsburgh Steel City Showdown holds a good place for my racing legs. Though I haven't raced every year of its existence, the two that I have did not disappoint. This criterium race through downtown makes for an exciting venue and an ever challenging race.
This is a road trip.
Though this will be the first 2014 race recap, this is not my first 2014 race. The three previous races of the season were fairly squalid as far as performance and quality on my part. Having been dropped in two of the three and finished in the back (tho apparently I scored a DNF) of the other, any subsequent recaps do not need much more breath than that. It could go without saying that my expectations for this Cat3/4 race were not high. My Cat4 abilities are still finding their legs and race alertness.

IUP Cycling had a great showing in the morning's earlier Cat5 race. Club VP, Theron, took the win! Teammates Drew and Alex finished top 15 at 10th and 14th respectively. Those boys make the IUP Cycling alum proud and excited to see more success.

Race day looms
The Cat3/4 race started its way around the .8mi course in a hustle. My expectations for this race was that it was going to hurt, and I would do my best to hang in for as long as possible. The early laps set a firm tone for the peloton's proceedings.
Photo by Mike Briggs
I had the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't last, but somewhere through the middle of the race my legs fell into a rhythm following the pace, turns, and constant accelerations up and around the two bridges.

The turns were the worst. Most of my time was spent regaining lost ground from having to touch the brakes through corners 1 and 2 from the sometimes sudden and ever unfortunate decellerations that had to be made. I quickly realized thst this pattern of slowing and subsequent acceleration was nothing I could waste any energy on. I would do what I had to to hold wheels, catch drafts back to the pack, and not allow any gap to form between me and the main pack. Potholes pinched nerves and the curb after turn 2 claimed at least 5 riders throughout the race. I could not understand how guys could overcook turn 2 and skim up on that outside curb after that turn. Yet it kept happening, and I made sure to hold my inside line.
Green dot - start/finish. Clock-wise.

Round and round, my legs kept up. It was well apparent to me that I was not the strongest in the race. I sought recovery every chance I could, but eventually I began to realize that I had opportunities to make gains on the field as sluggers on the front slowed after ascending the bridges. No one really wanted to make a blistering pace in the field, so the pace dropping allowed a lot of guys to catch back on. Instead of me hitting my breaks and holding my place near the back, I would allow a simple sling-shot effect to take place and gain positioning up bridge 1. I knew I could easily carry speed through turns 3 and 4 to carry momentum over the second through to the lap lines. This tactic would keep me in the hunt.
Photo by Mike Briggs
I kept an eye toward the lap cards flipping by when I could. Guys thinking they needed to bunny hop every pothole and gap in the road really got on my nerves, and kept me wary of someone making the wrong twitch into someone else's wheel to ruin everyone's day. As the laps moved on, my confidence and mentality strengthened. With 10 laps to go, I began noticing who the players for the finish wanted to be. Teammates began pairing up, and tho I didn't know any of them by strength, the tactics were simple. Follow their wheel for a ride to the finish.

I thought to myself "If you can see the front, you can be the front." I was going to give myself the best chance to win.

At this level, no one was going to be able to make a break away. With 3 to go, I knew that I had to be toward the front and hold my place there.

My adrenaline is pumping, my eyes twitch from wheel to wheel sizing up strengths and gaps in the field around me. Through turn 1 I am sitting halfway up the field. I ascend bridge 1 after a smooth, swift turn 2, and I put in a dig to keep myself moving as the front riders relax before they can dive into turn 3. Up the bridge to the line for 2 to go, I am sitting near 15th wheel. The penultimate lap is more of the same as I take more risks to put myself in the best place I can.

I am sitting 8th wheel as the peloton crosses the line to the bell lap. The pace is high and I follow a good line through the turn 1. I hold off touching my brakes as the back of my left hand is grazed by another rider's right. We acknowledge the contact by an instinctive twitch away from one another. My line into turn 2 is hindered by a surge from the outside squeezing me in. I accellarate hard through the turn to hold my positioning. Over bridge 1 and into turn 3 I have lost maybe 5 positions as more surge from the outside. My legs pedal through turn 4 and up the final bridge. I give it my all. I dig deep out of the saddle. My legs immediately burn and I feel my strength and acceleration dimming. My arms torque the bike side to side from the drops as I feel my handle bar jabbing my forearms. I sense riders flying past me and I know that my bid for a placing has passed. I keep turning as hard as I can for as long as I can through the finish line.

I finished 22nd out of 70 that crossed the finish line. I roll through one last lap to spin the legs, and I exit the course to go find my beautiful support girl on the sidelines of the course. I didn't register as immediately as she did that even tho I had not finished near the front, I had raced better than all season! This is certainly something to celebrate. I am so happy I had her and our Pittsburgh host cheering me on.

Looking back, I am really glad and honestly relieved to have given her something to actually cheer me on about. Me sitting 8th wheel at the end was, to me, the perfect place to be. I simply didn't have the legs to finish, but that will come with harder work put in. This performance is a step up because of my elevated training, and I know that the races will not be getting any easier.

By the numbers:
  • 21.4 miles
  • 50min 35sec
  • 24.3 mph average

After the race I had the pleasure of meeting the inspiring person that is behind Cycling Inquisition. Klaus is a brilliant writer with a tireless passion for cycling as seen through the Colombian perspective. I had no idea I would ever get a chance to meet him, but he noticed the jersey he designed that I wore for the race and came up to me after the finish to introduce himself and share a chat. His humility and appreciation for me wearing his jersey was truly inspiring. I was more than happy to share that moment with my girlfriend and friend with me there.
The jersey trumped the "13" bad luck

Here are a few more pictures from the weekend...

Another weekend racer

She's my teammate, fan, and soigneur number 1. #lesigh
I am fortunate to have such great support around me!

Thanks for reading. Two races to face this coming weekend. Look for more updates soon.